The Hunter Class Spacecraft designated ‘The Amberjack’ disappeared during a routine mission to Seek, Locate and Destroy the enemy Machine Mind contingent known as ‘The Ochre’. Conclusion: It was either destroyed by the Ochre or went rogue for reasons unknown. If sighted, approach with extreme caution.
On the planet Borealis, a violent revolution forces Samantha Marriot and her parents to flee their home for the relative safety of ‘The Rainbow Islands’. Once there, Sam discovers a secret her father has been keeping from her all her life, a secret that will change everything.
Meanwhile, The Machine Mind Hierarchy of Earth dispatches a ship to rid themselves of the planet’s troublesome human population. The only hope of a defence lies with a damaged binary Hunter unit that has long since abandoned both its programming and weaponry.
In order for the unit to succeed it must call upon the aid of an ancient enemy, and prove, once and for all, that it is a Hunter no more.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Four and a half stars from me.
Starting out with a breathless action scene, Tinnams drags the reader by the throat into a world where things are not as straightforward as they initially appear. The panic of the night flight amid rioting is truly heart pounding, and the relief once all are safely on board the escape boat is a welcome breather, even though something is clearly amiss between the two male leads, Roger and Keith.
This is an accomplished piece of writing, and the concepts explored are fascinating and well realised: AIs that wear ‘biotech’ (synthetic human bodies that house their consciousness when they need a physical form other than their space ship), a war between machine minds with human beings as unwitting casualties, and how a random event can put a spanner (or a hammer – read it, you’ll understand) in the works – or perhaps be fortuitous, depending on whose point of view you take.
My small quibble with the book was the – to me – slightly uneven structure. There are 5 viewpoint characters, opening with what seems to be a typical teenager, Samantha, which lured me into thinking this would be a standard YA novel revolving around the teen character. Chapter 2 is from her father, Keith’s viewpoint, and then the story alternates between the two for several chapters before the 3rd person, Josella, is introduced. Fine so far, but then when the action really ramps up (and it does, believe me – the sequences on the Amberjack are mind-blowingly good), Sam is left behind on the planet, and almost half the book takes place without her. This made it feel almost like reading two separate books, and I expected to at least have Sam’s viewpoint again at the very end, to ‘showcase’ the story, but that doesn’t happen, and I felt a tiny bit cheated, not seeing her response to the tragedy in the final showdown.
Having said that, I would still highly recommend this book, for the concepts, the depth of characterisation and the action – well worth the read.
I received this book to review for a blog tour – my opinions were in no way influenced by this.
First of all, and what many people have noted, I tend to give my characters ‘normal’ names such as Roger, Keith, Anna, Sam, Alicia. This was a conscious choice because when I’ve read books in the past I find it hard to get my head around weird alien names and lose track of who is who. I didn’t want my readers to have the same problem so I’d just rather keep it simple and direct. Even so a few slightly different names did creep in, like Kristof and Skylar. Again not alien names, but just a little unusual. I probably couldn’t walk down the street and meet a Kristof or Skylar, but I could probably bump into a Keith.
Names notwithstanding, once a character has a name, what do you do with them? Well in any story you have a protagonist, a character whose experiences the story is built around. Sometimes but not all the time you have an antagonist in direct opposition to the protagonist. Their conflict creates the story. Actually it’s not quite that simple, but that is a starting point. In my novels I tend to have more than one protagonist, allowing multiple points of view and multiple antagonists as well. It mixes things up more, and sometimes a protagonist can change roles and so can the antagonist. Their roles are not set, but are dictated by how each character progresses in the story.
It’s never as cut and dried as good versus evil. Good people sometimes do bad things and bad people do good things. Characters are not consistent, and may make a good decision one day and a bad the next, even when confronted with the same circumstances. Why? Is this bad writing? No, in real life people are equally inconsistent, I’m inconsistent. We live, we change, we make mistakes and sometimes we don’t. Characters follow suit.
I also believe that characters shouldn’t necessarily get on, even if they are on the same side, they have different interpretations of what that side is. For instance, the characters Keith and Roger in ‘Hunter No More’ actively despise each other. Keith sees Roger as small minded, Roger sees Keith as alien and arrogant. But that doesn’t mean they can’t work together, it doesn’t mean they can’t love the same people. But they are at odds, and that conflict helps to define who they are and make them more interesting as people. If they liked each other, and did everything without argument, that would make them the same person. Superficially the description would be different, but the characters would be duplicates of each other. People are all unique and different and no-one is exactly the same. In life we are all the stars of own shows, for the characters it’s no different. Even a minor character doesn’t know they are a minor character. In their own life they are the protagonist and they have to be written that way.
So we have names, conflict, descriptions. Someone is tall, someone is fat, someone is a man, someone is a woman. Gender stereotypes: the man should be strong, the woman should be weak. That is rubbish, a woman can be stronger than a man, both physically and mentally. A woman shows more emotion than a man? Maybe in feature films, but in a story we are interested in the inner voice. A man and woman can be equally afraid, equally grief-stricken, equally brave, and equally hysterical. Characters react and feel, man or woman, it shouldn’t matter. I’m not saying they should be written the same, but a writer should avoid being influenced by preconceptions about gender as much as possible. Why, as much as possible? Because we are all influenced by our upbringing, and every independent thought is tinged by that. I have no doubt that some stereotypes creep into my writing, but the trick is to avoid those stereotypes as much as you possibly can.
Finally it’s all about the layers; layers of behaviour, layers of reaction, layers of internal and external argument, layers of action. After injecting a character with enough layers, plot no longer dictates their actions, rather their actions dictate the plot. Keith isn’t going to say to Kristof, let’s blow up this place and go home. It’s not in his character. So plot hinges on how a character would act, and you can’t just throw in plot twists which don’t fit with a character’s actions. You have to write the character’s actions based on their developed traits and let the story play out as honestly as possible. That’s when it gets interesting for a writer, really interesting, because as you’re writing you don’t know exactly what is going to happen next.
operator, an IT support analyst, and a software tester. But during all this
time he was also an insatiable reader of science fiction and fantasy books like
Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game,
Robert Charles Wilson’s Blind Lake and Greg Egan’s Permutation City. He is very
fond of weird, mind-bending stories and decided quite early on to try writing
some. ‘Surface Tension’ is his second novel.
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